Teachers' Edition: Grades 3-6 (Lesson Plans)

This lesson is envisioned as a three-day lesson that includes the HNN fact sheet, an article, video link, and handout

Common Core Standards Correlation:

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies Grades 9 – 12: standards 1 – 4, and 6 – 9

Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies Grades 9 – 12: standards 1 - 9


HNN backgrounder; Interactive 1040EZ Form (PDF); article Seeking a Simpler Tax Code, by David Herszenhorn; Mark Fiore video on tax policy, handout Debate Research Preparation.

Objectives:  SWBAT

  • Identify various forms of federal income taxation
  • Understand how to fill out a simplified federal tax form
  • Analyze the importance of taxes on the progress of society
  • Evaluate which tax policies are best for America’s development


1. Introduction: Bell Ringer

  • Give out monopoly money or a check to each person that designates an earned yearly salary.
  • Then give students the scale for our “graduated tax code” that delineates what they would owe in taxes based on that salary.
  • Have students figure how much federal taxes would be owed based on their salary.
  • Have students consider the following:
  • Based on the amount of money you had to pay, do you feel your tax share was fair?

    2. Activity: Review the Backgrounder

  • Clarify terms in the backgrounder: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, the powers designated by the Congress, 16th amendment, Internal Revenue Service, federal income tax, tax bracket, progressive income tax, Laffer curve
  • 3. How Federal Income Tax Works

  • Have students take their checks and use that number to complete a 1040EZ tax form
  • Walk students through this process - either working at a computer station or with pen/pencil – to complete the 1040EZ form
  • 4. Summary Question: To what extent is the process of collecting taxes easy?

    HW Assignment: Have students read Seeking the Path to a Simpler Tax Code and answer the Questions to Consider.


    4. Introduction (Bell Ringer): The Debate over Tax Code

  • Have students view political cartoon on tax policies and answer the questions below:
  • Questions to Consider:

  • What are the particulars about tax policies that this video is addressing?
  • What is the POV of the animator?
  • How would the opposition respond to the video’s message?(identify oppositional arguments)
  • 2. Positions on Tax Codes

  • Analyze the Background (What the Left Says and What the Right Says) and identify the different arguments of proponents of reforming the tax code:

  • Progressive Tax Proponents

    Flat Tax

    No Taxes


    3. Review Homework Article

    4. Introduce Debate Activity

  • Have students break into groups to delegate each member’s research responsibilities for homework: Students should prepare arguments to debate tax policy based on the following resolution:
  • Resolved: A progressive tax policy is the best policy for an efficient government?

    Homework Assignment: Have students research their assigned topic for the class debate using the Debate Research Graphic Organizer

    Day III

    Activity: Debate the Resolution

  • Before formal debate, have students establish a clear criteria of what goals and values the tax code should provide to the American people.
  • Then groups should adjust their analysis to show how their position on tax reform meets those goals.
  • Debriefing Questions:

    1. How well did your group meet the criteria established at the beginning of the round?

    2. To what extent is tax reform an easy process?

    3. What would it take for Congress to reform the tax code?


    1. Have students create an annotated timeline/chronology of tax legislation in the United States

    2. Students should write a letter to Congress supporting their position on reforming the tax code

    3. Have students create a Rap PSA that informs students how to file their taxes when they are independent adults

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